Writing and reading are “a matter of fact” at university: Some thoughts for reflection

Academic enculturation

From our point of view, entering the University entails becoming member of the academic community; that is, the student is required to respond to the demands of the new context. We are referring to academic enculturation (Carlino, 2003) and therefore to academic literacy. Academic literacy is the axis for the acquisition, construction and development of that knowledge, which is to say, writing and reading are key in this acculturation process.

And the university is responsible for it; still, research carried out at national as well as international level show quite an opposite picture (if you want to know more check for example Pozo et al., 2006; Solé et al., 2005). A possible conclusion to be drawn from those results is that many university teachers believe that academic writing instruction and formation are not part of their professional duty. In other words, students are presented writing (and reading) as means to gain and develop knowledge, to some extent, and not as the means to construct and transform knowledge, and, ultimately, as the means to transform one’s own thinking. In short, we are referring to the reproductive function of writing and reading VS the epistemic function. In that regard, research shows that university mainly fosters the reproductive function of writing

So what can we do?

In light of this situation, one might think of the necessity to transform the pedagogical approach. However, research data shows that changing what is said –that is, changing explicit knowledge- is not enough to change what is done –the implicit, tacit models in action.

According to this interpretation, in order to progress or improve in the learning and teaching ways it is not enough with introducing new theories or conceptions, neither providing with new resources or efficient action guidelines, but it is necessary modifying the deeply rooted implicit or tacit beliefs that lie beneath those conceptions by means of a progressive specification of those initially implicit beliefs. Thus, it is first necessary to analyse teachers’ as well as students’ beliefs in regard to writing and reading.


Tane Bikuña (BAHI-IALE)

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